As part of Widgetbox's new staff series—we'll be bringing you occasional guest posts from members of the Widgetbox team.
When I graduated from college a year and a half ago I knew exactly what I wanted—to move to San Francisco and work as a software engineer at a fast-paced start-up. I applied to dozens of available positions, interviewed at numerous companies, and in the end, passed up on other offers to accept a position with Widgetbox.
Although challenging at times, my experience at Widgetbox has been incredibly rewarding, and I’ve learned a lot about how to make the most of my post-graduation job. Based on my experience here at Widgetbox, here’s what advice I can give you about being a Software Engineer at a start-up.
- Start thinking about your ideal company early in the process. Before applying for a job out of college, or deciding to make a career change, really focus on the type of company you’d like to work for. Decide if you want a structured corporate work environment, or an agile start-up culture. I found that focusing on what was important to me really helped me to tailor my job search, and subsequent decision-making. For example, if it’s important to you to be able to easily show your mom what you work on, you may not want to apply for a lot of highly technical B-to-B companies.
- Realize what you've learned in the classroom is not the same as real-world programming experience. Even if you come from a Computer Science (like me) or Software Engineering background, you’ll soon realize that the academic material you learn in school is not the same as coding for real-world applications. To gain some real-world experience it is imperative that you get solid internships, as well as experimenting with coding in your spare time as much as possible to learn by trial and error.
- Expect to learn, learn, and learn some more. Even with internships and real-world programming experience, you’ll most likely still be facing a steep learning curve. Prior internships had given me a taste of what was required as a software engineer, but nothing compared to the firehose of work needed to bring my Widgetbox skills to the next level. Although I felt qualified to do the work presented to me, I felt at times I was being strapped on to a knowledge rocket.
- With so much to learn, be prepared to devote additional time outside of the office to get up to speed. My first few months here, I spent my nights and weekends understanding both our platform and how to develop a proper web application. I came on board with rough experience in web application development, with most of my knowledge residing in Microsoft's .NET platform. Needless to say, I had a lot to learn. After putting in the extra time, and being receptive to feedback, it wasn’t long before I started to feel that I was finally able to master some of the developer skills necessary for Widgetbox.
- Look forward to wearing many hats. By working for a fast-paced start-up, I've been able to wear all sorts of different hats here and dive into working on different layers in our system—a personal bonus for me. I started out working in the front-end, and over time have been able to apply myself towards our backend. Since I've started, I’ve seen through the development of our "Widgetbox Pro" product suite, where we turned our platform into a freemium service. More recently, I've spent much of my time in our reporting system, which is the component that relies on our collection of all of the information we've collected on our widgets.
In short, I can tell you that working for a start-up has been an awesome experience. While I initially had to overcome some technical learning hurdles, I’ve gotten to spend time working with some incredibly smart people, learning a ton of new skills, and contributing to a product that serves millions of users.
—Aside from being enticed by all of the tasty eateries near our office in San Francisco, Brady is a big fan of iPhone games, dance videos, and running around in his Vibram Five Fingers.